'Single adult households can form a support bubble', the government said. As a family of four, we jumped at the chance to form a bubble with our single friend. Yes, we wanted to be a support to her, but we also wanted her to support us!
For several months during the coronavirus pandemic, this friend was the only person allowed in our house, or even, at points, that we were allowed to meet up with at all. It was a lifeline. I do hope it was a lifeline for her too, to come and hang out with us and be part of chaotic family meals, to be used as a human trampoline (by my children!), and on one occasion to get a robotic lizard toy entangled in her beautiful, long hair – no, who am I kidding, the support was mainly for us!
I really do feel for families that didn't have the same opportunity as us to join forces with a single friend.
I really do feel for families that didn't have the same opportunity as us to join forces with a single friend and just to have someone different to interact with, and watch films with, and eat with, and welcome into the chaos and mess of family life. I worry that families without this support bubble could have become quite insular and closed. Couples, perhaps, have forgotten how to interact with other adults in their home, and children have forgotten what it is like to have another grown-up to climb on... Sorry, did I say climb on? I meant 'spend time with'. (But really it was mostly 'climbing on' in our case.)
We all remember what deepest, darkest lockdown was like, and how isolating it was for us all. Even those of us who were 'locked in' in a warm and loving family situation were pushed to our limits. I know it wasn't just me who, whilst appreciating my family very much and not taking them for granted, longed to just occasionally spend some time with other people as well! It felt like we were on an island and any interactions with others who were outside our household felt distant, like calling out across the ocean to other islands, or waving to passengers on passing boats.
To be able to invite our friend to actually join us on our island in those dark days was a real joy and great privilege, and the best kind of support we could have had. I don't know what we would have done without her. We would have missed out on so much without her gentle company, interesting conversation, willingness to read Beatrix Potter stories to our kids for long periods of time, and her patience in teaching me to crochet (which, incidentally, was the most useful skill I acquired in lockdown!).
As I said before, I hope that she benefited from our bubble too, and I am sure she did, but I do wonder if our experience was what most of us imagined or expected of these special support bubbles for single-adult households? Isn't the general assumption in our society that the support in this scenario is mainly one-way, from a family to a single person? If so, I think that a serious underestimation or undervaluing of single people has taken place.
Certainly, our experience as a family was that we needed our single friend every bit as much as she needed us.
Certainly, our experience as a family was that we needed our single friend every bit as much as she needed us, and if our experience is anything to go by, we need to be seriously expecting more of singles than we do.
The sad fact is that our treatment of single friends in this way (not expecting much from them, thinking that they just need to be looked after) becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy! Single friends may feel that they don't have much to give, that they can't be a support to married friends and families because this is the general assumption. We don't want to be the cause of such passivity in our friendships by our own unwillingness to receive their support.
Is it a much different picture in the Church I wonder? Or has our society's undervaluing of singleness infiltrated the Church? I hope not, but I suspect that in many ways, it has. Wouldn't it be wonderful for the Church to be leading the way on this in our society? Showing the world that we all have something to give in supporting one another, and that the Church being family together in this way really is good for us all.